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Local Event: Investment in Women, the Power of the “Multiplier Effect”

By Marisa Brown

On Monday, December 6, at the Nineteenth Century Club in Oak Park, Ill., Betsy Perdue, co-chair of the Women’s Opportunity Network (WON), shared about the ‘multiplier effect’ and how it increases the social and economic impact of microfinance on women in the developing world, as she led a program called “Education, Microfinance and Empowered Women.” The concept of the multiplier effect is that for every $1 that is invested in Opportunity’s clients, we estimate that $1.47 worth of economic impact and growth are created. Invested dollars are recycled as loans are repaid and the money benefits an ever-growing number of clients and their families. Communities prosper as new income is reinvested to grow businesses, employ neighbors and enroll children in school–creating an economic cycle of growth for every dollar contributed. That’s why we say that one loan impacts the lives of not just one client, but the lives of an average of five family members or employees.

On Monday, Betsy gave a moving presentation on this topic and spoke on the hope and inspiration she has found in her long-time commitment to empowering women living in poverty. “I hope that we can treat this afternoon’s program like a conversation,” she began, “much like the conversation that started for me 16 years ago in an Oak Park living room. There, a group of women gathered together to work to change the lives of their fellow women around the world. We were convinced then, as we are now, that women in the developing world, if given the chance to build and expand a business, would reinvest their income in their families and their communities. That’s something that Opportunity has found to be true.”

“Moreover,” Betsy continued, “there are very few charities–local or international–where you can donate $100 and it can make a sustainable impact on a woman’s life. When you fund the loan of an Opportunity client and that loan is repaid, the interest goes to fund another loan in the community, multiplying the effects of that investment.”

The Nineteenth Century Club is a nonprofit which promotes life-long learning through dynamic, multicultural enrichment programs held every Monday at a beautiful historic landmark building in Oak Park, in Chicago’s western suburbs. Participants are encouraged to stay after each program for tea, a continued discussion about the day’s topic, and a chance to speak with the program’s presenter. Many amazing speakers have spoken at the Nineteenth Century Club over the years, and Betsy said she was truly honored to be added to a list of names that include Jane Addams, Amelia Earhart and Robert Frost. She also remarked what a joy it was to speak on a topic about which she is so passionate, and to such an engaged group of attendees.

In concluding the program, Betsy offered the audience a number of suggestions on how they can get involved and support Opportunity’s hardworking women clients worldwide as they pull themselves, their families and communities out of poverty. In honor of the holiday season, Betsy noted, “If you’d like to give a special Christmas gift, there is nothing more meaningful than empowering women to transform their lives and work their way out of poverty. You couldn’t make a better investment in ending global poverty.”

For more information on the Women’s Opportunity Network, visit opportunity.org/won. For future events at Oak Park’s Nineteenth Century Club, see the calendar of upcoming events at19thcenturyclub.com.

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